Despite book banning controversy, lawmakers confirm education nominee

Posted June 30, 2016 10:50 a.m. EDT
Updated June 30, 2016 11:21 a.m. EDT

— Lawmakers on Thursday confirmed Gov. Pat McCrory's two nominees to serve on the State Board of Education, including one who was embroiled in a 2014 controversy over banning a book in Watauga County.

With the Senate voting 47-0 and the House voting 110-1, lawmakers confirmed James Todd Chasteen, a lawyer for Samaritan's Purse, a humanitarian aid organization run by conservative preacher Franklin Graham, and Amy Bannister White, a Garner businesswoman, to serve on the board. Their terms expire March 31, 2023.

Chasteen advocated to ban Isabel Allende’s "The House of the Spirits" from the school curriculum when it was used in a sophomore English Honors course at Watauga High School. The book, published in 1985, is critically acclaimed but includes content that deals with sexuality.

"I've known Todd for a little over seven years," said Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, who also works for Samaritan's Purse, when she introduced him to the joint session of lawmakers. "He's a person of firm convictions and willing to stand up and speak up, especially on matters of liberty and justice."

There was little debate on the nominations, and only Rep. Chris Sgro, D-Guilford, a newly appointed member, voted against him.

"I just can't in good conscience vote for somebody who has taken the lead in book banning," Sgro said, adding that other members of the chamber were unfamiliar with the controversy until they asked him why he voted no.